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Old 07-05-2011, 02:40 PM   #51
Bryan
Location: Vancouver Washington
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

My dojo is very small, an addition built onto my instructors home. There are only 3 classes per week, with 2-5 students at a time. As senior student, anytime the instructor cannot hold a class I offer to teach best I can or even just take ukemi for other juniors. I don't like to miss any classes if I can avoid it. There are no other Aikido dojos in town so I supplement my training by visiting dojos in Portland Or, just across the river, when I can. Traffic is challenging. I also try to make as many of the intensives and guest seminars hosted at Ledyard Sensei's dojo.

I have never been a full time student of Ledyard Sensie, but I travel the 3 hours to Seattle/Bellevue as often as I can stretch my schedule and funds. I've been doing so for several years now. Lately I have the mixed fortune of having extra time, but this also comes at the expense of less income. I am also very fortunate to have an understanding wife.

The quality of training available at Aikido Eastside is phenomenal. George keeps his word to continually provide the highest level of training available to his students. I would never be able to afford to travel to all of the high level of guest instructors he invites to his dojo. Every month there is at least one 'can't miss' opportunity going on. I wish I could attend them all, but that would surely lead to a trip to the marriage counselor.

I can attest to the fact that Ledyard's expectations of his students are very clear. I've seen the document he's referring to posted right on the bulletin board as you enter the dojo. He also spends a lot of time talking about it during and after training. To put it politely, it is obvious to even the most casual observer.

I can also attest to the fact that not only does George tie the philosophy and principles of Aiki and Aikido to life as 'a way', but he is also very committed in maintaining the martial aspects of Aikido as a Budo.

Regards
-bryan
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Old 07-05-2011, 02:55 PM   #52
graham christian
Dojo: golden center aikido-highgate
Location: london
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
Jon

I took some highlights from your post

I believe that part of the problem is the level (or lack) of commitment of the teachers. A teacher should motivate and inspire his/her students. In the early days a (relative) handful of teachers were available and were of high quality. Those wanting to learn Aikido followed them wherever, whenever and however possible. Nowadays there are much more 'teachers'.
The base of the pyramid has grown a lot. Today those who want to learn Aikido often locate the nearest (cheapest?) dojo and start.
Back in the day chances were good you end up with a proper teacher, chances are not so good anymore today.

I also firmly believe that those really committed to learning Aikido will find their way.
Tim, good pertinent points. I agree with both. Our success is blocked only by ourselves. Add to this that quality far outweighs quantity, therefore looking in terms of numbers can always be a false path.

Another point here, if culture has changed and more youth are on drugs or poor or even into computers, that's no reason not to reach those groups and offer what could help them in their lives. How many just discard various 'types' of people through their own 'blindness' and thus wonder why no-ones coming? As with my last post, without wisdom we make policies which make us fail.

Regards.G.
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Old 07-05-2011, 04:39 PM   #53
Janet Rosen
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
Prioritize where aikido stands in your life. Truthfully express that priority with others so they may account for it in their actions. Why is this so difficult? I see seminar after seminar where students train and cannot understand what sensei is doing. I may see these students at the same seminar year after year NOT getting the same techniques over and over. What should Sensei take away from watching a student unsuccessfully perform techniques for years?..... But when you step on the mat you cannot hide who you are. I asked Hooker Sensei one time why he starts so many of his seminars with ikkyo or another simple technique. He said it was because he could evaluate the level of everyone in the room with such a technique.
Thank you for the whole post, I'm just snipping the part I liked the best....the whole thing was worth reading and pondering.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-05-2011, 06:03 PM   #54
RED
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Aikido is about love. Duty is about love. Service is about love. Love is a choice, a verb, a commitment, not JUST a feeling. IMHO We prioritize the majority of our time in the service and pursuit of that which we love. Aikido is no different from work, family or country in my personal view. The definition of Aikido is service in my opinion. The things I love have the priority over the hours of my day.
And there is no shame in some one saying that their duty to their children, family etc takes priority. Love is what fuels our service and duty.
I love Aikido.

"A man's real belief is that which he lives by. What a man believes is the thing he does, not the thing he thinks". -George Macdonald

Last edited by RED : 07-05-2011 at 06:14 PM.

MM
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Old 07-05-2011, 06:06 PM   #55
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi George:

I really appreciate your openness and how you speak from your heart.

I see your commitment to Aikido in your writing and after meeting you at Marc's dojo I now can put your writing into context with your spirit. Your dedication to the art if commendable.

Students and teachers who are commited to Aikido are such a gift to a dojo and the art as a whole.

Ron and I focus on those that come to train. We practice "positive mind" with commitment. Is is so very easy and very tempting to slide away from this practice by judging "what is."

Who ever shows up at a class or seminar is the perfect combination for that particular day. That group of people, gathered at that time, at that dojo, with that teacher is what is perfect because it is what happened.

You can feel embarassed if you need to, though it is not a reflection on you. Do you get embarrassed when a river floods or a volcano erupts? People are part of nature. We can ask for what we need, which you did, and then we can let go of the results. Then we can be fully present for the training that is happening in the moment.

I hope you were able to enjoy the seminar without a minute of regret for who was not there.

Best,
Mary
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:59 PM   #56
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
Hi George:

I really appreciate your openness and how you speak from your heart.

I see your commitment to Aikido in your writing and after meeting you at Marc's dojo I now can put your writing into context with your spirit. Your dedication to the art if commendable.

Students and teachers who are commited to Aikido are such a gift to a dojo and the art as a whole.

Ron and I focus on those that come to train. We practice "positive mind" with commitment. Is is so very easy and very tempting to slide away from this practice by judging "what is."

Who ever shows up at a class or seminar is the perfect combination for that particular day. That group of people, gathered at that time, at that dojo, with that teacher is what is perfect because it is what happened.

You can feel embarassed if you need to, though it is not a reflection on you. Do you get embarrassed when a river floods or a volcano erupts? People are part of nature. We can ask for what we need, which you did, and then we can let go of the results. Then we can be fully present for the training that is happening in the moment.

I hope you were able to enjoy the seminar without a minute of regret for who was not there.

Best,
Mary
Hi Mary,
I normally do exactly what you suggest. The student who I haven't seen for six months gets my full attention just as the student who I see every day. My tirades are only periodic expressions of things I feel need to get said... than I go about my daily business which is training myself and trying to pass on what I have figured out to ANYONE who is interested.

I loved meeting you and Ron. There are folks like you all over if one looks. People who absolutely love the art and are devoting themselves to it transmission. The fact that we all have different takes on what the art is and how it should be passed on just guarantees that the "Aikido gene pool" stays diverse and the art remains "alive".

If we all network and exchange, share our knowledge and insights with each other, I think that it is possible that at least collectively we could exceed what any individual, even perhaps the Founder could attain. Anyway, while I do concern myself with what has been lost in Aikido, I also believe that we have something truly unique in our art. Aikido has the potential to be an art of tremendous depth with the power to really transform the lives of the folks who seriously pursue it. It is a treasure.

This is why I often get a bit frustrated when people settle for so much less than is offered. It's right there in front of everyone. All they have to do is make the effort and they can have the "goodies". What they might have from Aikido is not something they will find just anywhere. It is special!

I also get really upset when I see the whole "Japanese" mystique thing in action. I can have Saotome Sensei out and have a hundred people on the mat without even working to publicize the event. No more than a handful of these folks will have a clue what he is doing and his explanations demand a high degree of understanding already to be comprehensible. But I can have someone like Gleason Sensei to my dojo, a guy who is functioning at the highest level and who can actually really teach you to do what he is doing and not a single person from another dojo will bother to show up.

So I can invite an absolutely top notch teacher to do a seminar at my dojo and have the event barely break even, if that. If I had one of the Japanese teachers, I'd be turning people away. The actual learning possibilities are probably greater for the vast majority of the students with the American teacher. But everyone wants to bask in the presence of the Japanese guy, even if they walk away having no clue what the guy was dong all weekend.

That's why I get embarrassed. The folks I bring in are at the top of their game. If they weren't, I wouldn't have invited them. Some of them are folks who have hosted me at their dojos. When I was there, there may have been 40 to 50 people on the mat. The welcome I received, the effort I was given, was so gratifying that when I have failed to be able to reciprocate, that maybe a third of my own students turned out for the seminar, I think it is embarrassing. I certainly do take it personally.

Of course we who are actually attending the seminar get fantastic training with lots of personal attention. It's great to have a wonderful teacher all to ourselves... But I am still conscious of what is being implicitly stated about how we treat our home grown American teachers. I am aware of how training is less about what one is actually learning, how one is really getting better, and more about being in the "presence" of some Japanese teacher who either cannot or won't actually be able to help one get better.

Anyway, there are for me a number of vexing factors that contribute to my periodic expressions of frustration. Once I have vented, I get back to the business at hand. I think I have seen the result of letting these frustrations take control and produce an isolated and embittered teacher. I know several of these and I am not going to be one myself. If I can make things better through my efforts I certainly will. But I don't really have the time or energy to stop more than an instant once in a while and vent. Folks will respond or they won't. In the mean time, the folks that really do care are training and getting better. That's the way it goes.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-06-2011, 03:22 AM   #57
philipsmith
Dojo: Ren Shin Kan
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

I go back to 1981 in Seattle. Back then there were three dojos, not the twenty + there are now. Only one of those dojos had a seminar or two in a year. My buddies and I hot anything that was held within a ten hour drive, which was Vancouver, BC down to Arcata, CA (Tom Read) over to Mizzoula, MT. If it happened within that circle, we were there.

And I guess therein lies the problem.

I too remember the times when we had to travel to train.
When I got my Shodan in 1976 there were only 74 Yudansha in the UK (I know because I was no 75!) and only one 6th Dan Shihan i.e. Chiba Sensei. Now I don't know how manyYudansha there are and my own dojo has 2 6th Dan Shihans as it's main instructors. Maybe the realissue is that there's a lot of Aikido around compared to when we were young (er)
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Old 07-06-2011, 05:01 AM   #58
DanielR
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Thank you for this important discussion, George Sensei.

Judging from the events schedule at Aikido Eastside, there's a weekend seminar almost every month at your dojo, sometimes even two times a month, always with outstanding instructors. This being the Seattle area, there are other great seminars that take place at other local dojos throughout the year. It's a great problem to have for a dedicated Aikido student, but could it be that a substantial part of it is that practitioners in your area simply have to make some hard choices as to which seminars to attend?
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:06 AM   #59
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hello George,

I read your letter as your latest blog and have also read it here, together with all the responses. Of course, I have a few questions.

First, the letter was written as an open letter, and these letters tend to be rhetorical, but have you actually received any responses from your target readers: your own students?

Secondly, you mentioned that Mr Saotome was training leaders and trying to prevent a decline in the art after the pioneers had gone. However, there is an ambivalence here, which is highly relevant to the issues you raise in the letter. Hence a sharp question: As a Hombu deshi, was Saotome Sensei's allegiance primarily to Morihei U or to Kisshomaru U, or did he see them as two sides of the same coin? One can reframe the question in even sharper terms: Did Saotome Sensei have to pay for his training as a deshi, or was he supported by Kisshomaru?

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

So this leads to the third question. I believe it was also K Chiba who used the metaphor of roots, trees, branches, and leaves to characterize an art like aikido. I am sure there are many ways you can apply the metaphor, but a view of the tree above ground presents the trunk, the major boughs, the minor branches, and the leaves. All are necessary to enable the tree to survive as a tree, but all have their respective functions. A pretty ruthless application of the metaphor to a dojo relegates the leaves (ordinary dojo members) to budding every spring and withering away every autumn. The trunk always survives and grows each year. As do the bough and branches, which sprout new leaves. Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for a Tokugawa-era martial art, which is biologically fixed, but it leaves open some interesting questions, such as how, for example, a leaf from one tree can become a branch of the same tree or of another.

If we consider the tree analogy in relation to your own dojo, do you treat everyone the same, as potential leaders, or do you maintain an unofficial ‘class' system, with differing expectations / obligations placed on the branches and the leaves?

Best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Hiroshima, Japan
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:45 AM   #60
George S. Ledyard
 
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Daniel Rozenbaum wrote: View Post
Thank you for this important discussion, George Sensei.

Judging from the events schedule at Aikido Eastside, there's a weekend seminar almost every month at your dojo, sometimes even two times a month, always with outstanding instructors. This being the Seattle area, there are other great seminars that take place at other local dojos throughout the year. It's a great problem to have for a dedicated Aikido student, but could it be that a substantial part of it is that practitioners in your area simply have to make some hard choices as to which seminars to attend?
This is certainly the case... and the other dojos do not have more "serious" students than I do. I have had several conversations wit my friends who run dojos and their experience does not really differ from mine in that it seems very difficult these days to find folks who can / will train as we trained when we wee young.

Now that may be the central issue. It is young people who typically can train like maniacs. They may not be married, typically do not have kids, mortgages, huge insurance, and blah, blah, blah so they can devote themselves to building that solid foundation that carries them through the later stages of their lives when perhaps they can't train six or seven hours a day.

If you have a situation as we do now, when people begin their training already in mid-career, with relationships and families and all that entails, well they never get the chance to put in the time and effort that we did. I think this has serious implications for the art.

In my own case, I understand that all of the local dojos hold their own events and their students pretty much feel that's their limit. I have developed overlapping communities which support our events. The Aiki / Internal Power work has a core of folks from my dojo which is augmented by out of town folks fro Eastern Washington and Oregon. Collectively, we can bring Dan Harden and Howard Popkin Senseis out three times each a year. The seminars barely break even but since they are about my own training as well as everyone else's I just need it to be close enough that I don't have much out of pocket.

Because of the plethora of Aikido in my area, and the fact that most folks tend not to train outside their own group, I need my students to really step up and support the Aikido seminars we hold which are three in number. I can't afford to subsidize these events out of my own pocket nor should I have to do so. The number of students I have training at the dojo is fully sufficient to support our events in-house and any folks who coe from outside are just gravy.

I treat my dojo as a resource for the larger Aikido community. Ihold one seminar each summer in which I invite teachers whom I know but are perhaps less well known around. I want to support American teachers of Aikido and I use that seminar to give people exposure. These are top level folks. Yet I'll turn away people when I have Ikeda Sensei and worry about whether we'll break even when it's a non-Japanese teacher. That's even true when it's Gleason Sensei in the Fall.

Anyway, it is what it is and I am absolutely cognizant of the fact that we are pushing the envelope in terms of what we can support. The larger community is starting to realize what we have going on and in many cases I am more likely to have someone jump on a plane and attend one of our events than I am have someone from another local dojo attend. I think that's fairly ironic but it is what it is.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-06-2011, 10:17 AM   #61
Sacha Cloetens
Dojo: Ban Sen Juku Leuven - Masakatsu Dojo
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi George,

Just a thougt
Aren't those commiting, actually beeing financialy punised?
If - in surplus of regular dues - your students attending seminars at your dojo - have to pay extra fees, won't you end up with a financially reversed pyramid ( vs overall membership pyramid)?

If overall dues were a little higher, would you be in the possibilty to organise the 3 seminars at your dojo " for free" for your regular students?
If people don't attend, it's their loss - they already payed for it...
If they do attend, they're not extra charged for showing up....( so they put in only extra time & effort ;-) .... )

That way merely showing up is actually rewarded rather than being extra burdened, ...its not always the same guys, paying the most often....

Don't you think its a little weird, a student who can show up on any given day of the week ( & has excellent tutoring on these days - fulfilling all his needs - getting plenty of individual attention - ) at the dojo would have to pay extra in that same dojo if showing up on seminar-day ( with a 100 + attendance, where he doesn' get thrown even once ? )

Maybe it's time to rethink the economical / educational model ?

Attendance is also related to overal social relations. I see people post that "its' not a social club".... I don't agree...
"Après-aikido" is important in forging friendships & comraderie. It's the cement that ties a group. Can you expect comitment if there's nobody to commit to ? Is a visting sihan / instructor you see at the far end of the mats somebody one can really commit to?
Isn't it easier to get things done when the group spirit is engaging ( that's how the mats get there al by thelmselves ;-) )?

Have individual members possibilties to easily get in touch & interact with each other ( if x,y z, is going, i'm going ? )

Commitment is a slow proces.
Did you commit a full 100 % from day one - or did it all start as a hobby, a pass-time, a great - non-competitive & philosophically interesting- work-out, where you got the chance to meet nice ( outside your regular job ) people.... that gradually morphed into something else ?

Maybe it's not for everybody?
You mention 1 other person beside yourself. What about all the others ?
Maybe it just takes time to understand & value what it is that's actually being thaught.

You believe all of O'Senseis students fully commited & faithfully transmitted?
& Takeda's ( 30.000 + ) students ?

Did they teach individuals /small groups or large ( 100+ - ich -ni -san- chi type ) seminars - Gokui or waza -?

As to attract young males - being the natural fishing grounds for new talent?
Do you think it's really that different elsewhere?
I've been told ( could be wrong) most people in Japan quit martial-arts after high school / College & eventually get back to it after ther family lives & carreers allow them to - i.e. at 50+ y.
Those sticking to it thro-out their ( economicaly) active lifes being rather exceptional ( & most often than not perceived as a little odd ?)

Weren't plenty of O senseis' students past their " young males" stage when they were introduced to O'Sensei? Didn't they already have a very solid bases in other martial arts? ( Takeshita - Sugano - Murashige - Hisa- Tenryu ?)

Didn't aikido take off more easily in countries outside Japan where the sihans could draw on Judo facilities & (more mature & often injured / worn out) practitioners, like France?

Is your own aikido better now, or when you were 25-30 ?
Is there an age/ physical barrier to technical improvement ?
Has technical improvement to do with hard practice/ fysical prowess & lots of sweat alone, or does it take (tactile) experience - overall comprehension & ( multiple -layer) understanding ( sense & sensetivity :-) ) ?
Does the later coincide or clash with typical "young-male energy"?
Why do some teachers completely fysicaly exhort their students before actual practice?

Is the thing(s) that attracted you to aikido in the first place ( Sales-Pitch = Non-competitive - spirituality - non-violence - ki over fysical strenght - mystical Japanese sihans - traditional/ exclusive/ elitistic/ exotic activity) the same as what keeps you envolved ( Budo) ?

Is that "sales pitch" still enticing to the people you wish to attract?

Wether one gets hooked- wether not...
Can't blame those who don't.

Plenty of Koryu got extinct.... & not for a lack of quality/watering down of techniques.

Thoughts ?

Sacha
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:23 PM   #62
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Sacha Cloetens wrote: View Post
Is that "sales pitch" still enticing to the people you wish to attract?

Wether one gets hooked- wether not...
Can't blame those who don't.

Plenty of Koryu got extinct.... & not for a lack of quality/watering down of techniques.
Remember that what you know of Aikido is not what potential members think they know. Herein lies the challenge. What makes a good sales pitch and still maintain true to yourself/the Way?

I am curious what Georges view is on this?

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 07-06-2011, 01:09 PM   #63
jonreading
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
I believe that part of the problem is the level (or lack) of commitment of the teachers. A teacher should motivate and inspire his/her students. In the early days a (relative) handful of teachers were available and were of high quality. Those wanting to learn Aikido followed them wherever, whenever and however possible. Nowadays there are much more 'teachers'.
The base of the pyramid has grown a lot. Today those who want to learn Aikido often locate the nearest (cheapest?) dojo and start.
Back in the day chances were good you end up with a proper teacher, chances are not so good anymore today.
Tim,

First off, I believe there is a different set of expectations in aikido then say, 20 years ago. It is our responsibility as instructors to evaluate our expectations to ensure they are realistic and maintain a curriculum that allows students to meet those expectations. Second, I think students need to evaluate their expectations and express them to the dojo. Third, students and instructors need to compare their expectations and develop a plan to meet them.

Yes, there are some instructors out who cannot meet the expectations set forth by the student. Yes, there are some students out there who cannot meet the expectations set forth by the instructor. Yes, there are some dojos that cannot provide the appropriate access to training. However, these situations can all be addressed and resolved by either the student or the instructor, or both.

The common denominator here is expectation. We have students who want to be black belts but who will not train like they want to be black belts. Their expectations do not match their level of commitment to aikido. I know many dojo who will offer 2 or 3 class a week without extra opportunity to train; you cannot excel at aikido training 2 or 3 times a week. The dojo needs to be a place of opportunity for those students who wish to excel can train 4, 5 or 6 days a week. FInally, instructors need to offer a more complete curriculum of training. We have many instructors who are not yet capable of providing a full spectrum of competent curriculum. These instructors need to understand "sensei" is more than instructor and they need to act in accord with the entirety of the responsibility.

That said, the end decision to train aikido will always remain with the student. A good sensei can inspire you to train on those days you'd rather stay home, but so too can a good sempai, kohei or spouse. (I love you honey!).

The dojo needs to meet the expectations of its instructors and its students. Periodically, we need to have open letters and dialog between the invested parties to make sure the dojo is meeting everyone's needs. There also needs to be a dialog between students. Sempai teach you swear words, show you how to clean the mat, interpret sensei when you have difficulty understanding instruction. Kohei remind you of what you used to be like, they need you to give them structure and aid, they are the rag doll that comes back asking for more. The modern dojo is having a problem with these relationships. We need students who will accept and fulfill their roles. We need instructors who will accept and fulfill their role. We need collective participation from the dojo to maintain a dojo environment that can meet the needs of everyone.

I also believe modern dojos have a problem recognizing excellence. The commodity culture says "I pay the same money that guy does, he is no better than I." What it does not say is "We pay the same, but that guy is in class twice as often as I." It's the ol' "everyone gets a trophy" here mentality. But again, we have differing expectations between the student who trains twice as often and the student who trains half as often. Set out the tissues; yes, the girl that trains twice as much as you stands to improve at a faster rate. Don't like it? Train more.

I sound like a broken record, but you can only blame so many other people for your decision not to train. Our perspective on this problem is wrong. We are pointing out why we do not train; we need to be finding reasons to train.

And I appreciate Dr. Goldsbury's post. There are a number of interesting points there.
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Old 07-06-2011, 01:20 PM   #64
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello George,

I read your letter as your latest blog and have also read it here, together with all the responses. Of course, I have a few questions.

First, the letter was written as an open letter, and these letters tend to be rhetorical, but have you actually received any responses from your target readers: your own students?
Yes, I did. And in typical fashion, it was precisely the ones that I wasn't really addressing who took it to heart. One of the things I have liked about Saotome Sensei over the years is that he almost never singles an individual out for any type of public criticism. He'll address his concerns to the group and let folks decide for themselves if he is talking about them. I have tried to do much the same. But I have noticed the folks who take the criticism seriously and take it on as applying to them are seldom the people actually being addressed. So I had one female student apologize for not being at the seminar... she is actually someone who attends more events than anyone but the seniors. She is also doing Systema seriously and has traveled up to Toronto to work with Vlad and Michael. She is doing everything she can afford in terms of time and money. But she was one of the ones that responded whereas I have seen a number of the intended targets of the letter whom responded not at all, didn't say a word about it. So, either they pretty much feel it's someone else's issue or they already know they don't wish to change their behavior and are going to simply pretend it never happened.

Quote:
Secondly, you mentioned that Mr Saotome was training leaders and trying to prevent a decline in the art after the pioneers had gone. However, there is an ambivalence here, which is highly relevant to the issues you raise in the letter. Hence a sharp question: As a Hombu deshi, was Saotome Sensei's allegiance primarily to Morihei U or to Kisshomaru U, or did he see them as two sides of the same coin? One can reframe the question in even sharper terms: Did Saotome Sensei have to pay for his training as a deshi, or was he supported by Kisshomaru?
It is quite clear to me that Saotome Sensei's "allegiance" was to the Founder. O-Sensei was clearly the major formative influence on Saotome Sensei's life. He was close to the Nidai Doshu and considered him to be one of his teachers, along with Osawa Sensei and Yamaguchi Sensei.

It is my understanding that Sensei was supported by the Hombu Dojo as a professional instructor, although this might not have been true for his entire association. I believe the way the deshi system worked was that the uchi deshi basically "worked off" their support by teaching at all the companies and schools which requested support by way of hombu providing them with a teacher. I have seen Sensei's resume from the time and he oversaw, on behalf on Honbu dojo, a large number of clubs at companies and schools. He was on the mat 6 - 8 hours a day including at least two classes in which he trained at Hombu. He also did private lessons for folks willing to pay. I do not know if the deshi got that as income or whether it was part of their responsibility to Hombu and the dojo got the income. He also had administrative duties and was instrumental i setting up the large network of dojos around tokyo which wer under the Hombu Dojo's umbrella.

Quote:
My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.
I think that this may have depended on how close to the end of the war the deshi was enrolled. Saotome Sensei talks about eating garbage he found on the street to survive right after the war ended. I am sure that K Ueshiba did not have the resources to get things off the ground. It doesn't surprise me that deshi had to come and go initially. I know that Sensei spent some period of time working at a regular job. He was trained as an engineer in product design. As I mentioned above. he was a central player in helping Hombu set up the network of satellite programs which later served as a major financial support for the enterprise. I think these guys were totally winging it. It was a new paradigm and they evolved it over time.

Quote:
Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.
This is my understanding as well. The democratization of what had been more of a traditional Budo was quite radical. I think that his was the beginning of the double standard that continues to this day. The uchi deshi of the immediate post war period were given the finest traiing which the Founder and his son could design. As we have discussed elsewhere, it is clear that the deshi were provided with optional training opportunities which gave them backgrounds in areas they were never actually expected to teach. This was especially true of sword work. O-Sensei taught them various aspects of martial application which were not intended for public consumption. In other words, the uchi deshi got the real training and the public students got the more simplified program.

I think this was the origin of the problem we see today and the source of the issues I am addressing in my letter to my students. The general run of the mill students were never actually expected to really "get it". That was for the professionals. Everyone else was simply benefiting from doing the training. No one actually expected them to have understanding of great depth nor did they themselves aspire to the highest levels of skill.

But then comes the Aikido diaspora in which teachers go all over the world with this new art and the whole mythology of the Founder. Folks wer REALLY taken with what they were able to glean about O-Sensei, which we know now to have been greatly edited. They didn't sign up to do Aikido-lite. Foreigners all over the world turned their lives upside down to pursue this art... while back in Japan, the powers that be had no expectation that any of these folks could possibly understand Budo or O-Sensei or attain anything like the technical skill level they associated with their own Shihan.

But the first folks in each country generally did their level best to pass on what they had been given. There was no double tier system at Sensei;'s DC dojo back in 1976. Sensei stated that he was training future professionals and everyone trained in the same way as if all of us would eventually do that. It was not a beginner friendly place. The dojo did not grow beyond about thirty students until Sensei wasn't teaching all the classes. The training I got was meant to duplicate, at least on some level, what Sensei had gotten back in Japan. Nothing was watered down. Everyone trained six or seven days a week.

From reading some of the stories about the early days in Britain and France, it's clear that much the same thing took place. Where as the Japanese pioneers who took Aikido to foreign countries generally tried in their own ways to create competent instructors and some even really tried to create teachers who were as good as themselves, I do not belive that the folks at Hombu ever had that expectation and they have had to adjust over the decades to the fact that there are top level, non-Japanese teachers of this art. Especially the place which the Founder holds for foreign practitioners and his importance in how they see Aikido is entirely different than how Hombu understood what was going on overseas.

Quote:
Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.
With my teacher, he simply trained everyone "as if" they would be and the folks who wouldn't or couldn't go the distance fell away rather than having a general training out of which he picked out folks for something deeper and more intensive. That was one of the things that was truly exciting about that time (and can't be duplicated today). We all knew that we were getting everything... the full meal deal. Sensei did classes he had done for the Shihan at Hombu when no one in the dojo was more than Shodan. Totally over our heads but that's what made it exciting. That's one of the reasons I have so little understanding of the beginner who won't move out of the beginner program into the open level program because it's too intimidating...

Quote:
So this leads to the third question. I believe it was also K Chiba who used the metaphor of roots, trees, branches, and leaves to characterize an art like aikido. I am sure there are many ways you can apply the metaphor, but a view of the tree above ground presents the trunk, the major boughs, the minor branches, and the leaves. All are necessary to enable the tree to survive as a tree, but all have their respective functions. A pretty ruthless application of the metaphor to a dojo relegates the leaves (ordinary dojo members) to budding every spring and withering away every autumn. The trunk always survives and grows each year. As do the bough and branches, which sprout new leaves. Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for a Tokugawa-era martial art, which is biologically fixed, but it leaves open some interesting questions, such as how, for example, a leaf from one tree can become a branch of the same tree or of another.

If we consider the tree analogy in relation to your own dojo, do you treat everyone the same, as potential leaders, or do you maintain an unofficial ‘class' system, with differing expectations / obligations placed on the branches and the leaves?
For the most part I have opted to treat everyone the same. Other than taking Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei's advice to create a super user friendly beginner program which I do not teach, I have followed my teacher's lead and basically offer the best training I possibly can to everyone. That's one of the prime reasons I require a certain minimum attendance for anyone to test above 4th Kyu and require participation at certain events as a condition of testing. I have no interest whatever in offering a dumbed down version of Aikido to the "leaves" just because they may or may not stay. Everyone gets the same opportunity and the ones that take advantage of it get better. The ones who don't can play around as much as they'd like but they don't get promoted past a certain point and generally, out of self preservation, stay away from the advanced classes.

I really believe that everyone is capable of doing Aikido with some level of "aiki". What is required is clear instruction and some hard work. Instruction has been so lacking over the years in Aikido, worst amongst the technically finest teachers, that the general Aikido populace simply got in the "habit" of not getting it. People trained for years and didn't get any better, went to seminar after seminar with their teachers and got no closer to understanding what that teacher was doing than they had been a decade before. And everyone just accepted this as natural. The Japanese Shihan were somehow "special". I remember hearing folks state quite clearly that we would never do Aikido like Saotome Sensei. So there were two Aikidos. The really amazing, deep and mysterious Aikido of our teachers and the Aikido that the rest of us did.

I am not willing to buy into that. There is no reason that any mid-level yudansha should have Aikido that isn't working for precisely the same reasons that Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei's Aikido is working. So, I am unwilling to buy into the two tier system in which only the serious folks get the goods and everyone else exists just to pay the bills. I'd close the dojo before I'd do that. But periodically I have to re-explain that this is my attitude and folks who train with me need to understand that. There are plenty of dojos around which seem to have plenty of quite contented "leaves" at which the "roots" aren't very deep. Everyone is happy, which is fine, but there's not much happening.

My point to folks is that it really doesn't take a whole lot more effort to do good Aikido than it does to do bad Aikido. If you are going to put a certain amount of time. money, and effort into the art, why not give it that little more that's required to do it well.
Thanks for your thoughts!
- George

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-06-2011, 03:04 PM   #65
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Thanks Jon for your comment. Makes a lot of sense to me and hopefully to others reading it .

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
We are pointing out why we do not train; we need to be finding reasons to train.
In addition we have to respect that not everybody practises Aikido with the same motivations/expectations.

How do we make clear what one can expect from Aikido?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
...let folks decide for themselves if he is talking about them. But I have noticed the folks who take the criticism seriously and take it on as applying to them are seldom the people actually being addressed...
This is a very Japanese way of teaching and is hard to understand with Western upbringing/schooling. My teacher is like that, I make an effort to become like that. However, I hasten to add that it is very important to teach your students about Japanese culture. How else can you expect 'the right' students to pick up on this? And when you know you do why bother?

anecdote
At a seminar of my teacher a few years ago he explained to the group that when seated to his right one can do this because you are a guest (in that dojo) and thus show your respect. After a while there also comes a time to take your rightful (as Menkyo) position (and move to his left between more advanced students). As I always seated myself to his right just where the first 'hakama' seated, I felt addressed by him. For the next class I seated myself to his left. He made eye contact to make sure I saw that he saw.

These subtle messages can indeed be hard to pick up. It is also a good tool for teachers to see who understands...but is is demanding...

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 07-06-2011, 04:57 PM   #66
sakumeikan
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello George,

I read your letter as your latest blog and have also read it here, together with all the responses. Of course, I have a few questions.

First, the letter was written as an open letter, and these letters tend to be rhetorical, but have you actually received any responses from your target readers: your own students?

Secondly, you mentioned that Mr Saotome was training leaders and trying to prevent a decline in the art after the pioneers had gone. However, there is an ambivalence here, which is highly relevant to the issues you raise in the letter. Hence a sharp question: As a Hombu deshi, was Saotome Sensei's allegiance primarily to Morihei U or to Kisshomaru U, or did he see them as two sides of the same coin? One can reframe the question in even sharper terms: Did Saotome Sensei have to pay for his training as a deshi, or was he supported by Kisshomaru?

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

So this leads to the third question. I believe it was also K Chiba who used the metaphor of roots, trees, branches, and leaves to characterize an art like aikido. I am sure there are many ways you can apply the metaphor, but a view of the tree above ground presents the trunk, the major boughs, the minor branches, and the leaves. All are necessary to enable the tree to survive as a tree, but all have their respective functions. A pretty ruthless application of the metaphor to a dojo relegates the leaves (ordinary dojo members) to budding every spring and withering away every autumn. The trunk always survives and grows each year. As do the bough and branches, which sprout new leaves. Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for a Tokugawa-era martial art, which is biologically fixed, but it leaves open some interesting questions, such as how, for example, a leaf from one tree can become a branch of the same tree or of another.

If we consider the tree analogy in relation to your own dojo, do you treat everyone the same, as potential leaders, or do you maintain an unofficial ‘class' system, with differing expectations / obligations placed on the branches and the leaves?

Best wishes,

PAG
Dear Peter,
I can confirm the T.K. Chiba statements about the tree[roots, trunk, branches].I may be wrong here[my memory is going fast ]but I seem to remember a logo with a flourishing tree on it.Was it the Aikikai of G.B logo?
Regarding the system of future /potential teachers as you know Chiba Sensei introduced the shidoin/fukushidoin certification tests in the U.K. in the early 70s.Having moved later to San Diego he then set up Kenshusei /Uchi deshi programmes.There are now from these programmes many U.S.A teachers, and a number of
European/U.K. ex kenshusei now teaching currently.
Hope you are well, Joe
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:16 PM   #67
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
But she was one of the ones that responded whereas I have seen a number of the intended targets of the letter whom responded not at all, didn't say a word about it. So, either they pretty much feel it's someone else's issue or they already know they don't wish to change their behavior and are going to simply pretend it never happened.
I find this rather pessimistic. They may have been too embarrassed to say anything, but it doesn't mean that they haven't taken your message to heart. You may find a number of them suddenly start appearing much more regularly.

I know I argued with you early in this thread, but this discussion has at least led me to think about my training, what is possible, and what benefit I am gaining from it. If your message can do that for someone who argues about it with you, then who knows what it can do for someone who merely stays silent.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:47 PM   #68
graham christian
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Aikido is about love. Duty is about love. Service is about love. Love is a choice, a verb, a commitment, not JUST a feeling. IMHO We prioritize the majority of our time in the service and pursuit of that which we love. Aikido is no different from work, family or country in my personal view. The definition of Aikido is service in my opinion. The things I love have the priority over the hours of my day.
And there is no shame in some one saying that their duty to their children, family etc takes priority. Love is what fuels our service and duty.
I love Aikido.

"A man's real belief is that which he lives by. What a man believes is the thing he does, not the thing he thinks". -George Macdonald
Maggie. Now that woke me up! I love it!

A lesson in Aikido. Plus- receive with love, let it be with love, accept with love and may any changes be made with love. Then their's nothing to fret about.

Regards.G.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:59 PM   #69
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Sacha Cloetens wrote: View Post
Hi George,

You believe all of O'Senseis students fully commited & faithfully transmitted?
& Takeda's ( 30.000 + ) students ?

Did they teach individuals /small groups or large ( 100+ - ich -ni -san- chi type ) seminars - Gokui or waza -?

As to attract young males - being the natural fishing grounds for new talent?
Do you think it's really that different elsewhere?
I've been told ( could be wrong) most people in Japan quit martial-arts after high school / College & eventually get back to it after ther family lives & carreers allow them to - i.e. at 50+ y.
Those sticking to it thro-out their ( economicaly) active lifes being rather exceptional ( & most often than not perceived as a little odd ?)

Weren't plenty of O senseis' students past their " young males" stage when they were introduced to O'Sensei? Didn't they already have a very solid bases in other martial arts? ( Takeshita - Sugano - Murashige - Hisa- Tenryu ?)

Sacha
Generally, there's a huge gap in budo practicioners in Japan. As far as I can see, Karate and Shorinji Kenpo is pretty much done by and for kids. Aikido is done by older middle aged men and housewives. Judo holds up but mainly because it's a sport from whch one can gain prestige and even make an income. Maybe Kendo too. The whole model of constant training at the same dojo for twenty years is becoming outdated IMO. The state of the Japanese economy means that most people will never be able to do that again. As Professor Goldsbury pointed out, the whole "deshi" model of Aikido training is actually not all that new. IMO, it developed due to the unique economic/social environment of post-war Japan. Ueshiba Morihei and his peers didn't train like that. They trained intensively for relatively short periods of time under master instructors and developed their arts through learning from other sources. Maybe the whole paradigm needs looking at.
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:25 PM   #70
Basia Halliop
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Yes, I did. And in typical fashion, it was precisely the ones that I wasn't really addressing who took it to heart.
That's basically what I thought when I read your letter - those who are already pretty committed will feel guilty, those who don't think it's as important will not be as bothered by your words, those who believe they are already doing everything they can will be upset and more likely to give up or leave in the long run... what you describe is very much the expected response to such a letter, I think.

Personally I think that's just the way guilt works - it's primarily effective on those who already feel a strong sense of responsibility and commitment. I would be rather surprised if you could 'create' motivation where it isn't already there by using guilt this way.... I just don't think that's how people work, generally...

Quote:
There also needs to be a dialog between students. Sempai teach you swear words.....
This made me laugh... this is certainly an important responsibility that many of my own sempai seem to take very seriously.
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Old 07-07-2011, 07:34 AM   #71
carina reinhardt
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Reply to George Ledyard's Open Letter: "Some Reflections," by Alister Gillies

from: Aikido Journal Online
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:38 AM   #72
jonreading
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
In addition we have to respect that not everybody practises Aikido with the same motivations/expectations.

How do we make clear what one can expect from Aikido?
I think this is a problem in aikido. There is some amount of respect that needs to exist between students who do not share the same commitment or interest level in aikido. In previous discussions we have looked at different language to describe interest levels: hobby, past time, profession, etc. We go both ways here; we look down on those who take aikido less seriously and we gossip about those who take aikido more seriously. Maggie has a good post; aikido is about service and obligation. This is where I think expectation needs to be clear. I think with that honesty should also come a clear conscience that releases us from guilt of not training enough. I would rather a student be honest and train less, than feel guilty and pretend to train more.

The problem we have in voicing our expectations is they often sound silly. "I want to train 2 days a week but I expect to be a black belt" is not a realistic expectation - you cannot train that little and perform high level aikido. Yet many of us think that is OK and we evidence it by attending class 2 days a week. "I want to stay practiced until I can bump up my commitment to 4 days a week; 2 days a week is all I have and I understand that will reflect in my aikido." Better statement and more realistic.

The problem is we all envision ourselves wandering through California righting wrongs (a la Kung Fu) or confronting muggers in a dark alley. Previous posts concerning the assumed ability to harmlessly disarm and neutralize would-be attackers is evidence of the unrealistic expectations we hold. Two minutes in a cage cures those notions; or, honesty with your commitment.
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:11 AM   #73
Janet Rosen
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
"I want to stay practiced until I can bump up my commitment to 4 days a week; 2 days a week is all I have and I understand that will reflect in my aikido." Better statement and more realistic.
Agreed. Clarifying priorities and goals and having them congruent with reality can and should be within the realm of what any adult learner does.

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
The problem is we all envision ourselves wandering through California righting wrongs (a la Kung Fu) or confronting muggers in a dark alley. Previous posts concerning the assumed ability to harmlessly disarm and neutralize would-be attackers is evidence of the unrealistic expectations we hold. Two minutes in a cage cures those notions; or, honesty with your commitment.
Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....
Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-07-2011, 10:14 AM   #74
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello George,

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

PAG
Hello Peter,
Your history above has me curious of the economics of the current Hombu setup. They seem to have a more or less constant stream of young instructors working their way up to the status of Hombu Shihan. Where do these guys come from and how is the financing of Hombu's teaching staff set up? How does the situation at Hombu compare with the rest of Japan? Are there any lessons or ideas that spring from this example that would be of any use in the West?

Jonathan Olson
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Old 07-07-2011, 10:23 AM   #75
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....

Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.
Exactly - there are MANY statements of "the way it is" flying through this whole thread that are not at all. It always amazes me how many Aikido people assume their own experiences and opinions are universal truth for everyone else as well....

I like the quote:

"An interesting thing about life is, for every truth that is real for
one person, somewhere in the Universe the exact opposite is likely
to be just as true for someone else. And that somewhere may be very close at hand."

Larry Novick
Head Instructor
ACE Aikido
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